Other magazines are hitting the stands with their annual swimsuit issue, so we thought we’d offer our own take on it with these bathing costumes dating back to 1910.
The model for this cover illustration was likely Edna Hutt, Henry’s wife and his favorite model, whom he considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Unfortunately, their union was an unhappy one, with accusations of abuse on both sides, including “use of ‘strong liquors,’ intimacy with other women, and cruelty.”
Artist J.C. Leyendecker was well known for his illustrations of strapping, strong-jawed men, starting with the Arrow Collar Man and continuing throughout his long relationship with The Saturday Evening Post, where he illustrated more covers than any other artist, including Norman Rockwell. The model for this illustration appears to be Leyendecker’s partner, Charles Beach.
John LaGatta’s illustrations depicting beautiful, sultry women were considered to be some of the most desirable artworks of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. His style was a favorite of advertisers, including Campbell’s, Ivory Soap, Kellogg’s, Johnson and Johnson, and—not surprisingly—Laros Lingerie and Spaulding Swimwear.
This is one of six covers that Alex Ross painted for The Saturday Evening Post. All of his covers featured beautiful women, but this beach scene is the only one that doesn’t focus on a single person. Anyone who has spent time at the beach knows that a successfully completed game of cards is highly unlikely (unless the cards are made of lead).
De Mers illustrated this short story by Steve McNeil, which posed the question, “He’d quit his job to escape the pressure and confusion of city life. Should he go back now, to please a girl?” From the look on his face, you already know what the answer is.
Snyder illustrated this short story by M.G. Chute called “The Trouble with Love,” where we learn than “No man liked a sloppy, forgetful date who came without a bathing cap or didn’t have enough bobby pins along.”
“Jimmy braced himself for the shock. She was wearing a chartreuse-and-black swimming suit. She was sleek and gently tanned and showed more curves than Warren Spahn. She put on her bathing cap and looked at Jimmy enigmatically.…Clinically, he had to admit that Jill Foley, in a bathing suit, was as tasty as ice-cold watermelon.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose likeness is sitting on our young virtuoso’s volume of finger exercises, was playing minuets on the family harpsichord at age four— but could he have done so if he had been obliged to play with flippers on both feet and a swimming pool staring him in the face? We wonder. The model used by artist George Hughes is the same youngster who appeared on our January 9, 1960, cover. His mother was standing over him on that occasion, letting him know that he had stalled long enough and that he was not to go outside until he had written a Christmas thank-you note to Uncle Vic.
Most of us have seen swimmers of this ilk before. He was the kid around the corner who spent his vacation periods counting the days until he could return to school. He was the character in your platoon who used to volunteer for guard duty. Dick Sargent’s likeness is a realistic one. See that gap between the upper front teeth? Comes from gnawing on tree trunks. You can spot an eager beaver every time.
It isn’t just the farmers and poultry truck drivers who have a hard time handling turkeys. Sometimes the big birds were a handful for our cover artists and models. Why did one famous cover artist start “to feel like an assassin”?
Turkey Loose Atop Truck by Constantin Alajalov
“When I wanted to sketch turkeys as they look in a crate,” said cover artist Constantin Alajalov, “I found a wholesaler who sells a lot of them. For the turkey on the lam…he said, ‘Take your pick’. Every time I started to sketch a model, somebody bought it and bang, it was a dead bird. I began to feel like an assassin.” Our artist got the delightful Thanksgiving cover done, but said, “For Thanksgiving I may skip turkey…and have hamburger that I’m sure I don’t know, socially.”
Squawking Turkey by Tony Sarg
This youngster managed to catch the turkey, but now what? The boy with arms full of squawking fowl is from 1915.
Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey by Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell painted a lad he called Cousin Reginald, a city slicker. As we’ve shown you before, his mischief-loving country cousins often made a fool of Reginald. Now, we just know those rural boys told Reggie that catching the turkey would be a breeze. They are in the background being royally entertained.
Where’s That Turkey? by Wm. Meade Prince
This is no dumb Tom Turkey. When someone with an ax is looking for you, hiding is a good option. This colorful cover was painted for the Post’s sister publication, Country Gentleman by artist William Mead Prince.
Pilgrim Stalking Tom Turkey by J.C. Leyendecker
Would you believe this beautiful cover is from 1907? Artist J.C. Leyendecker did much more than paint ridiculously handsome men for Arrow Shirt ads. He did more Saturday Evening Post covers than any other artist. One of the earliest, and smartest, acts of George Horace Lorimer after taking charge of the Post was to hire J.C. Leyendecker to do a cover in 1899. Between then and 1943, Leyendecker did 322 Post covers, one more than Norman Rockwell. To honor his mentor, Rockwell chose to do one fewer cover.
Thanksgiving by J.F. Kernan
There’s an old myth that if you sprinkle salt on a turkey’s tail, you can catch it. Also, if you sprinkle pepper on a hen’s tail, she will lead you to her nest. These tricks may work, but only because if you’re close enough to sprinkle salt on a turkey’s tail, you’re close enough to catch it anyway and if you pepper a hen’s tail, she’ll probably get disgusted with you and stalk off….back to her nest.
Artist J.C. Leyendecker did dozens of covers of babies, including this cutie. So how did a baby become a cover model for America’s most famous magazine?
The cute tyke in the high chair? Why, that’s one of our cover models, and how we loved hearing from him recently! David L. Johnson was one of Post cover artist J.C. Leyendecker’s famous New Year’s babies. The smiling gentleman is Mr. Johnson today. Same charm, more teeth.
Baby Delivery Boy with Hat boxes and Flowers – April 10, 1909
Along with sometimes lavishly dressed ladies and gentlemen, Leyendecker painted children and babies – lots of babies! His winsome tots did everything from delivering Easter boxes to carving a Thanksgiving turkey. The first New Year’s baby was delivered by the stork to welcome the fresh New Year 1908. The last New Year’s baby was bravely fighting the Nazis in 1943. These precocious youngsters did it all.
New Year Ticker Tape – December 30, 1933
In the 1930s, these poor little tykes were mighty worried about the economy (we told you they were precocious). The one greeting 1934 was encouraged at what he saw on the ticker tape. Which brings us to 1935, and our friend and cover boy, David L. Johnson. The artist depicted David trying his darndest to balance the budget. Walking a tightrope between a bottle of red ink and a bottle of black, he precariously balances the budget atop his cute little head.
Johnson tells us his grandfather was an illustrator named Orson B. Lowell. Lowell attended the Art Institute of Chicago and later moved lock, stock, and motherless grandchild to New Rochelle, which had become something of an artists’ colony. There Granddad hung out with artistic types like Post cover artists J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell (“He knew all those guys,” Johnson tells us). When J.C. Leyendecker was looking for a model for New Year’s 1935, his artist pal–Johnson’s grandpa–knew just the child.
Baby New Year Flying Bi-Plane – January 1, 1910
We get a brief history lesson reviewing the Leyendecker baby covers. The baby welcoming the year 1910 was flying a new-fangled bi-plane, a feminine baby in 1912 was carrying a “Votes for Women” sign. 1914’s tot was cruising the soon-to-be-opened Panama Canal.
Global War – December 30, 1916
The Post welcomed 1917 with a Leyendecker baby looking with concern at a damaged globe – could global war be looming? Alas, 1918’s tiny boy was helmeted and armed and ready to report for military duty.
Votes for Women – December 30, 1911
Thank you so much for getting in touch with us, Mr. Johnson. You’re the first Leyendecker baby we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. By the way, we could still use your budget balancing skills. Questions about Saturday Evening Post covers can be sent to: [email protected] or by comments below. And if you know of former Post cover models, we’d love to hear from them!